Democrats with an eye on the future have descended this year on South by Southwest, the multi-genre festival in Austin, Texas.
The worlds of music, tech, hipster-dom and entertainment have now played host to a who’s who of presidential candidates and newly minted political stars.
Here’s everything that’s happened so far, why it matters and what to expect.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was greeted like a rock star.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) had one of the most well-attended events of the early portion of SXSW, according to media reports. The first-year congresswoman spoke at length about her support for Democratic socialism and said she wasn’t interested in taking “baby steps” when it came to policy ideas.
“We view ambition as youthful naiveté when… the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision,” Ocasio-Cortez said at an event Saturday. “The ‘meh’ is worshipped now. For what? Like, for what?”
Ocasio-Cortez also had a surprise appearance with Bill Nye the Science Guy, who took to Twitter to praise the representative for her work on ambitious climate legislation.
“AOC gets it,” Nye wrote on social media. “She sees that fear is dividing us. We can address income inequality. We can address climate change, if we get together and get to work.”
Stacey Abrams hinted at her political future.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams may have narrowly lost her race in November, but the Democrat has emerged as a political force.
Shortly after a discussion with PBS “NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor, in which Abrams suggested that the earliest she’d consider running for president was 2028, the lawmaker clarified her remarks to say that timeline had dramatically moved forward.
“Life comes at you fast,” Abrams wrote on Twitter later Monday. “Now 2020 is definitely on the table.”
Many have speculated about Abrams’ plans following her narrow loss to Republican Brian Kemp in an election mired in claims of voter suppression. Some leading Democrats have reportedly been urging her to consider a potential bid for the Senate in 2020 or another run at the Georgia governor’s seat in 2022. Were she to join the Democratic fray for the White House, she’d be part of an already busy field of candidates vying to replace President Donald Trump.
CNN hosted a trio of town halls.
The news network has been hosting a series of town hall-style events with some of the more notable (or controversial) candidates who have launched presidential bids or declared their intentions to seek the White House in 2020. In Austin, CNN hosted a three-hour back-to-back event Sunday with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and Mayor Pete Buttigieg ofSouth Bend, Indiana.
While Gabbard had a few interesting things to say about Syrian leader Bashar Assad, Buttigieg was widely hailed as the top performer of the night. Many praised his nonpolitical style, and he saw the single-biggest fundraising day of his campaign on Monday. CNN noted he raised around $600,000 in the 24-hour period after the event.
Elizabeth Warren made Facebook (even more?) mad.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) used her time at SXSW to defend a newly unveiled proposal to break up some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook.
“My view on this is it’s a little like baseball,” Warren said at the event, according to reports. “You can be an umpire, a platform, or you can own teams, that’s fine. But you can’t be an umpire and own teams.”
She later addressed criticism that the move would affect the tech world, noting: “This only affects tech monopolists. Less monopoly profits? Boo-hoo.”
The proposal led to a bizarre public relations blunder at Facebook, which deleted several campaign ads from Warren’s presidential account that touted the proposal. The company quickly reversed its decision amid criticism from Warren herself and said it was in the process of restoring them Monday evening.
Beto O’Rourke watched a documentary of himself.
Potential Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke was in Austin to watch the premiere of a film about his popular but unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in last year’s election.
O’Rouke received a standing ovation at the screening of “Running With Beto” and addressed the historic nature of his campaign, but he failed to nail down any firm pledges on 2020.
“There are so many candidacies, so many leaders,” O’Rourke said. “We got to be part of this amazing thing in Texas over the last two years, and it continues.”
The Houston Chronicle noted the former congressman said he wished he “had more to give” reporters about his 2020 prospects. “I want to make sure I do it the right way. I’ve got to be on the timeline that works for my family and for the country.”
Howard Schultz is still mulling but had a bad time.
The former Starbucks CEO still hasn’t formally launched a bid for the White House as an independent candidate, but Howard Schultz still seems to be testing waters that appear increasingly frigid, according to the Daily Beast.
At a SXSW panel with NBC’s Dylan Byers, Schultz questioned if reports that he was unpopular were true and slammed some of the Democratic Party’s biggest firebrands, saying, “You can’t try to solve one extreme with another.”
“They love the country. They have their core beliefs. But you have to ask them, is any of this possible?” Schultz said of Ocasio-Cortez and Warren. “The vast majority of Americans are not going to embrace socialism.”
He later reiterated his past statements that he would do “nothing to re-elect Donald Trump” but said he still planned to “play” out his potential candidacy.
Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro campaigned as normal.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro appeared at campaign-style interviews during the festival and spoke about a bevy of policy proposals.
Klobuchar addressed the comb incident (“It was me sort of doing a mom thing”), and Castro said he was a “progressive,” but neither made any headline-grabbing comments that have propelled them to the front of the increasingly growing pack of candidates.